Michael Faber: An Anti-Federalist Constitution

Gunston Hall, home of George Mason

An Anti-Federalist Constitution: The Development of Dissent in the Ratification Debates

By Michael J. Faber


An Anti-Federalist ConstitutionWhat would an Anti-Federalist Constitution look like? Because we view the Constitution through the lens of the Federalists who came to control the narrative, we tend to forget those who opposed its ratification. And yet the Anti-Federalist arguments, so critical to an understanding of the Constitution’s origins and meaning, resonate throughout American history. By reconstructing these arguments and tracing their development through the ratification debates, Michael J. Faber presents an alternative perspective on constitutional history. Telling, in a sense, the other side of the story of the Constitution, his book offers key insights into the ideas that helped to form the nation’s founding document and that continue to inform American politics and public life.

Faber identifies three distinct strands of political thought that eventually came together in a clear and coherent Anti-Federalism position: (1) the individual and the potential for governmental tyranny; (2) power, specifically the states as defenders of the people; and (3) democratic principles and popular sovereignty. After clarifying and elaborating these separate strands of thought and analyzing a well-known proponent of each, Faber goes on to tell the story of the resistance to the Constitution, focusing on ideas, but also following and explaining events and strategies. Finally, he produces a “counterfactual” Anti-Federalist Constitution, summing up the Anti-Federalist position as it might have emerged had the opposition drafted the document.

How would such a constitution have worked in practice? A close consideration reveals the legacy of the Anti-Federalists in early American history, the U.S. Constitution, and its role in the nation’s political life.

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Michael FaberMichael J. Faber is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Texas State University. He teaches courses in American political institutions, with particular focus on the presidency. His research interests include congressional elections, presidential rhetoric, political theory, and American political development.  Besides An Anti-Federalist Constitution, he is the author of Our Federalist Constitution:  The Founder’s Expectations and Contemporary Government  (Scholarly Publishing, 2010). His articles and reviews have appeared in a variety of journals including American Political Thought, Perspectives on Politics, and Politics and Policy.

Professor Faber is a JMC fellow.

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